Recent polling reported upon by Jeff Bryant of the Education Opportunity Network shows that by concentrating on support for public education and public school funding, Democratic Senate candidates in key swing state races could still win this election. These victories would result in keeping control of the U.S. Senate in Democratic hands.
Without a union and voter mobilization in critical states the election could swing the United States Senate to Republican Party control and continue the march to damaging Republican control of state governors’ offices .
Bryant tracts recent in depth polling to argue that the critical difference is how candidates campaign on issues related to public schools.
According to the polling, “The top testing turnout message overall emphasizes education, specifically Republicans’ efforts to cut programs for students while giving tax cuts to the wealthy. This message is the strongest argument for coming out to vote in all of the states except Colorado (where it ranks second, just behind a message focused on how Republicans are working to turn back the clock on women’s rights).”
Taking a strong stance for “education and public schools” was far and away the message that most survey responders found “very convincing.”
In those key swing states Georgia, Iowa, Kansas, North Carolina and more, the Democratic Party candidates have the voters on their side when they stress funding for public schooling.
In some states, such as in the upper Midwest, where low voter turnout in 2010 delivered the states to the Republican governance (Wisconsin, Ohio, Indiana, Pennsylvania), union campaigns targeting low-income voters can focus on reversing the severe austerity of state budgets and the cuts to public schools. Union members, including retirees, can work within their unions to increase voter turnout. Union members in contested states as well as in the South vote more Democratic than their Tea Party-leaning age and gender cohorts among the white working class. (See Levison, The White Working Class Today. 2013)
In 2012, California increased union voter turnout made possible passage of Prop.30 — a tax on the rich to fund schools and social services as well as the defeat of the Koch Brothers financed Prop. 32 attack on unions.
Increased voter turn out with a stress on public education can help the Moral Freedom Summer campaign in North Carolina and similar efforts in Georgia to reverse voter suppression laws and to fund public schooling.
Duane Campbell is a professor emeritus of bilingual multicultural education at California State University Sacramento, a union activist, and former chair of Sacramento DSA.